BCHL – League sets new playoff format

Trail Smoke Eaters will battle for one of four spots in six-team Interior division

The BCHL annual general meeting provided a lot of talk, a few resolutions and some items still to be decided.

Trail Smoke Eaters president Tom Gawryletz said there was a lot of discussion over the weekend in Richmond and some of the motions are being put to a vote that will be tabulated by the end of the month.

“There was a lot brought forward,” said Gawryletz.

From a fans point of view, the main topic was the playoff scenario.

With division realignment already in place for next season, which means Prince George and Chilliwack will be moving to the Mainland Division, last year’s format became obsolete.

The Interior Division will have six teams while the Coastal Conference’s Mainland and Island divisions have five teams.

The format agreed upon would see four teams in each division qualify for the playoffs.

That will leave one team out of the post season in the Mainland and Island divisions while two teams will fall short of the playoffs in the Interior Division.

The first two rounds in the Coastal Conference will be best-of-five series with the final a best-of-seven.

In the Interior, all rounds will be best-of-seven.

A motion that should receive near-unanimous support is the elimination of the mandatory 16-year-old player on each roster.

Some teams struggled to fill that spot last year as the young players either jumped to the Western Hockey League or returned to their minor clubs.

The new motion would make have two players 17-years-old or younger mandatory on each roster.

Staying with roster issues, the affiliate draft of 15-year-old players has been discontinued and roster size will increase from 21 to 22 players.

The schedule is also taking shape with the clubs and league sharing the efforts this season.

One change will see a major tournament, the BCHL Showcase, kick off the season in Chilliwack. The idea is to have all 16 teams playing in one location, which makes it easier to attract scouts to one centre. Each team will play two games, which will count in the standings.

That format worked well in Trail for the Smoke Eaters pre-season tournament.

However, with the league creating its own tournament, Gawryletz said the Smokies would not be hosting its pre-season event.

Although that will be another blow to the Smokies’ bottom line, Gawryletz said after meeting will team representatives in Richmond, Trail’s financial fortunes could be a lot worse.

“The Smokies were far from the only team losing money in the league last year,” he said.

Financial statements from most teams, which are owned privately, are confidential and not available to the public.